Student Spotlight: Donut Duo Finds Entrepreneurship Sweetly Satisfying

Imagine a world without donuts. This was the pastry darkness Karen Manarolla faced when told that gluten was off the table for health reasons. It wasn’t long, however, until ingenuity and the need for donuts sparked a delicious business idea for Karen and Pat Landy.

Pat and Karen met in college and, remaining close friends, taught French together for many years at University Prep. While wondering what their next venture would be upon retiring, Karen took a class on making gluten free donuts when the idea for Dough Buddies struck. “After that, we decided that this was what we wanted to do, because there were no [gluten-free] donuts,” said Karen. “This was a great niche for us, and something we believe in.”

The Dough Buddies gluten free donut mix started with much experimentation. Karen took sample after sample to the language faculty where Pat still worked to get feedback, honing in on the perfect recipe. Many tastings and iterations later, Karen and Pat came to Mike Maher, CEO of Conifer Foods, to see if they really “had something.” Mike, who had originally been hired by Pat’s father long ago, provided valuable mentorship through the beginning stages and referred them to the Food Innovation Center at Oregon State University. There, they transformed their donuts from a home mix to a dry mix that could be marketable.

Whipping up a large batch of the new mix, Pat and Karen took their donuts for a taste test drive in a donut trailer on loan from Conifer Foods at the Mother Earth News Fair in 2012. The taste test was a huge hit, and fair-goers came back for more and more. Facing their donuts’ success, the question now, Pat explained, was “what do we do with this product?”

The dynamic donut duo then took Jennifer Lewis’ Starting a Small Food Business class. “That class said to us, ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to give this a try,’” said Pat. “We have no business classes in our college repertoire, and that’s the only class – that, and the social media class we took here. It really launched us.”

Karen and Pat gained a new business vocabulary, including cost of goods sold, marketing, licenses, and laws. One such law was the Cottage Food Law, of which Jennifer and Zoe-Ann Bartlett (who co-taught at the time) were very knowledgeable. Their familiarity with the law “saved us a lot of time, and helped us decide on which avenue to take for our product development,” said Pat.

Jennifer also pushed them, along with the other students, to think bigger and more professionally. “She welcomed a lot of questions specific to your own situation, and they were honest in their answers,” said Pat. “That’s really important to somebody who is launching a business and wants it to be successful.” For Dough Buddies, in particular, Jennifer encouraged Pat and Karen to refine their package label and reconsider packing the mix themselves.

Ultimately, Karen explained that in building the Dough Buddies business, “we wanted to just learn, to do something different, something that would be fun to do together,” with Pat adding “and have fun with it, and not lose any money.” So far, they are doing just that - Dough Buddies is in the black, their friendship is closer than ever, and the entrepreneurial experience is continually rewarding.

“It’s really making a difference. You think donuts, big deal, but they’re gluten-free donuts, and when you see people who haven’t had a donut for such a long time, or maybe never, and they taste them, wow, it’s so exciting,” said Karen.

Dough Buddies donut mix can be found in more than 20 local stores, including Whole Foods and Thriftway. Learn more at doughbuddies.com.

Read about Jennifer Lewis’ Starting a Small Food Business class here. 

Posted on: June 16th, 2014 at 14:32:45

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